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Thomaston girls cross country: A state title and a parade

POSTED October 27, 2019
BY Rick Wilson
Twitter: @scribewilson

                THOMASTON – They made the parade and in Thomaston sports circles that is a very big thing. The pinnacle.

                Down Route 6, known by locals as Plymouth Hill, from Terryville, into a greeting contingent of police car(s) and fire engines with lights blinking and flashing and horns blasting with an appropriate championship crescendo.

                It is the beginning of a two and a half mile memory that winds its way past Crabby Al’s Restaurant, Barberet Jewelers and Black Rock Tavern through the center of town and then past the iconic Seth Thomas Clock Building, the famous Tony’s Coffee Shop,  Modern Motors and the bowling alleys to the high school.

                Hardly a lonely journey, the parade lured people out of the establishments to yell, clap and salute.  It is the Thomaston way with a ‘Hoosiers’ feel to it and it is reserved for only the special.

                Special translating into state champions and Saturday afternoon it was the Thomaston High girls cross country team’s turn to live the dream and take the ride so few get to venture. The ride of a lifetime.

                Coach Mark Olsen’s band of fleet-footed runners, fresh off a Berkshire League title, dusted off the Class S field in the early Saturday morning hours at Wickham Park in Manchester to earn the program’s third state title and first since 2011. The Bears outdistanced their closest competitor East Hampton, 59-102.

                Thomaston’s five runners all placed in the top 19 led by two-time Berkshire League champion junior Maegan Desmarais who covered the 3.1 mile distance in 20:35. Not far behind was senior Briana Grecco in ninth (21:01) followed by freshman Payton Mozelak in 16th (21:37), freshman Kiera Fainer in 18th (21:58) and junior Kiersten Sundell in 19th (21:58).

                Desmarais and Grecco earned All-State honors while the team will compete in the State Open Saturday at Wickham Park.

                In Thomaston that all gets you a parade and Olsen watched as his team came to the slow realization that this goes beyond a school thing. This is the best of a small town thing.

                “There were a lot of smiles from families and a lots of hugs,” said Olsen. “It took (the team) a while to realize that this is a really big deal. Trevor Daigle who is an assistant had his runner-up jacket on from the 2011 team and one of the kids asked me if we could get jackets like that.  I told her sure and you also get a banquet just for you guys. They said, “that’s so cool.” Then it all started to dawn on them.

                They had a blast. It seems corny for them and it is the coolest thing ever with people honking and waving at them.  Winning in a small town……”

                A championship is a championship but there was an extra element of impressive in the manner of victory. This wasn’t a winning with a final kick, this was winning by blowing them off the line.  The winning finishing places weren't far off the Bears’ monster teams of 2010 and 2011 led by Sabrina Olsen and Cam Chaplen where the top finishers  placed in the top 13 and 16 respectively.

                “They ran what they can run and that is rare when you get everybody nailing it,” said Olsen. “They are strong willed and every race they just bring it. I told them they just killed it. They are a fantastic team that ran fantastic.”

                The day was made ever brighter because curiously enough if the Bears weren’t exactly disrespected there was a sense of being a bit ignored. One major publication failed to mention them as a favorite or even a team to watch. There was little mention of their victory after the race.

                “I don’t pay much attention to that but I was a little surprised,” said Olsen. “Bolton coach Paul Smith (Class S boys champion) is a good friend of mine and he said to me that we weren’t even mentioned in previews of the race and that he told people don’t pay any attention to that. “

                The Bears had beaten the first, second and third place finishers, East Hampton, Somers and Derby during invitational meets during the season. They didn’t exactly come running out of a shrouded mist.

                Actually Olsen saw his team finishing behind Old Saybrook (5th).

                “(Old Saybrook) has some dynamite runners but sometimes you can’t tell because of the different courses,” said Olsen. “We run a lot of hills. Our whole team ended in before their No. 3 and 4 runners. “

                Here’s one last hook to hang your running treds on. Olsen has eight runners on his team with six showing up Saturday. On the bus that took that memorable ride there were a total of 13 bodies.  You know the story, 240 kid high school with maybe a 120 girls. All live within hollering distance of the school. Can’t ignore it.

                You have to like the story as much as the champions found the meaning of the bus ride and parade. Pretty impressive and very cool. Nothing like a small town and a big title. Nothing like the parade.      

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